(Headline USA) American authorities have arrested two suspected Chinese government agents in connection with an alleged plot by Beijing to alter American tax codes to oust enemies of the Chinese Communist Party.
John Chen and Lin Feng were charged in an indictment unsealed Friday with scheming to revoke a New York-based Falun Gong organization’s tax-exempt status and paying bribes to a undercover officer posing as a U.S. tax agent.
The undercover officer recorded multiple conversations with Chen, and investigators obtained a wire tap to record phone calls in which Chen and Feng discussed instructions they purportedly received from Chinese government officials, prosecutors said.
In one recording, prosecutors said, Chen referred to Chinese government officials as akin to “blood brothers” and, in another, he said Beijing would be “very generous” in rewarding the undercover officer’s help cracking down on Falun Gong’s non-profit status.
Chen, a 70-year-old U.S. citizen, and Feng, a 43-year-old lawful permanent resident, are charged with acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government, bribing a public official and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
Chen and Feng were both born in China but now live in the Los Angeles area, where they were arrested Friday. Information on an initial court appearance or lawyers who could speak on their behalf was not immediately available.
Messages seeking comment were left with the Chinese Embassy in Washington and with the Falun Gong movement.
China banned the Falun Gong movement in 1999, classifying it as an evil cult and one of the “Five Poisons,” or chief threats to its rule. Since then, Falun Gong practitioners have found refuge at a 400-acre compound called Dragon Springs in upstate New York.
In the U.S., the Falun Gong movement is known mostly for its ties to Shen Yun, a touring performing arts group, and The Epoch Times.
America will “continue to investigate, disrupt, and prosecute” China’s efforts to “silence its critics and extend the reaches of its regime onto U.S. soil,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press